Formula One teams are discussing changes to the sprint format for next season so that the weekend schedule becomes easier for fans to follow.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told Sky Sports the sprint qualifying ‘shootout’ could move to Friday, with the sprint race on Saturday morning followed in the afternoon by qualifying for the Sunday race.
A final decision has yet to be made, however.
The current weekend format, which has been changed since last year, features a sole Friday practice session followed by qualifying for the Sunday main race.
Saturday then has a half-hour sprint ‘shootout’ to determine the starting order for the same day’s standalone 100km sprint race, which offers points for the top eight finishers.
Last year the Saturday sprint race set the grid for the grand prix.
“I think it needs tweaking a bit more,” Aston Martin Performance Director Tom McCullough told a press conference at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, which includes the last of six sprint races this season.
“Even my dad, who’s quite an understander and follower of F1, sometimes says to me, ‘just remind me, is it qualifying on Friday for the main race?
“So our job is to put a simpler, better, more understandable format.”
McCullough said that even though there were some exciting elements from fan and commercial perspectives, the sprint format was a technical headache as the cars went into ‘parc ferme’ where they cannot be worked on after just one practice session.
Potential changes were discussed at a meeting of F1’s Sporting Advisory Committee this week, McCullough said.
“It’s quite tricky. If you move the sprint race to Saturday morning, then you have to make sure that you allow enough gap for teams to react in case of problems,” Ferrari Sporting Director Diego Ioverno said.
“There are also other options on the table,” added Ioverno. “We will work all together because at the end, this is our target, to make it as good as possible for our fans.”
Drivers have expressed mixed views, with Red Bull’s triple world champion Max Verstappen no big fan of the format.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic. So much fun. I get so excited by having a sprint again. I’m all for it,” he said with heavy sarcasm.
Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas disagreed: “I like the Sprint always. I’ve never been a big fan of three practice sessions,” said the Finn. “I prefer to have one and then straight to action so that’s the nice side of a sprint weekend.”
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